If there’s a silver lining in the lie that sunk four U.S. swimmers it’s that it will directly help a program that uses sports to help pull poor Brazilians out of the slums.
In order to leave Brazil, swimmer James Feigen was ordered in a deal Friday to pay a fine of almost $11,000 and donate it to a charity.
Feigen faced charges of making false claims to police after he, multimedalist Ryan Lochte and two other U.S. swimmers said they’d been robbed at gunpoint by police, a story Rio’s police chief on Thursday exposed as a lie.
Multiple Brazilian media outlets reported that the charity selected for the donation was the Institute Reacao (the Reaction Institute), which captured Olympic headlines when Rafaela Silva won gold in judo for Brazil. The Globo news chain said the money would be used to buy sports equipment for a center in Rocinha, a giant sprawling seaside slum.
Silva came from the City of God favela, as slums here are known, and her improbable rise to Olympic fame was due in large measure to the program.
It was founded in 2003 by Flavio Canto, a charismatic 2004 bronze medalist in judo who now splits time doing on-air sports commentary for Brazilian television.
The programs offered by the institute take students from the ages of 4 to 17. The goal is not to churn out Olympic medalists. Its declared mission is, “Forming black belts inside and outside the mats.”
Beyond the global acclaim for its judo prowess, the institute also offers education programs and subsidies for athletes who’ve been identified with potential for placement on Brazil’s national team.
The institute operates training facilities in or near three large poor slums in Rio, giving the disadvantaged opportunities that are lacking in most aspects of their daily life.
“The goal is utilizing sport as an instrument for education and social transformation,” the institute says on its Portuguese-language website.
Interviewed earlier in the Olympics while doing his judo coverage on Brazilian TV, Canto acknowledged his institute has pioneered help to the poor athletes who make up a large part of the national teams.
“We’ve been working for 16 years now, we were probably the first one, so there are many nice stories,” said Canto.